Kilimanjaro, the Inca Trail, Everest Base camp or a simple short hike on local trails. We all dream of these amazing places and for some of us, turning those dreams into a reality is like a brand new lease on life. But there are essential things to remember when buying your first hiking boots. Stick to them, and your first trip can be a lot more fun!
1. Buying new boots – do your research.
New Boots – this is the best part of starting out. The trip to the store to buy those rather costly, very impressive leather hiking boots. Tried and tested on many trails, you will be beguiled with fancy terms like ‘upper,’ ‘split grain,’ ‘outsoles,’ ‘lowers,’ ‘midsoles,’ Gore-Tex® and ‘heel brakes.’ It may be worth brushing up on your understanding of some of the basic terms before you prepare to part with your well-earned dollars. Either way, the important thing is that the boots must be relevant to the hike. The key pointers to look for is that they must be waterproof, breathable, have good ankle support, a built-in ‘tongue,’ and good lug patterns on the sole with a solid heel brake.
2. Buy the correct size. This may sound really silly, after all, who would buy a boot that is the wrong size? You would be surprised! When you head off to buy your boots, take the socks that you will be wearing on your hike with you. Thin cotton socks that you wear to the gym are certainly not the correct sock to use to try on your new boots.
Having put on your new socks, take the inner sole of the boot out of the boot, place it on the floor and stand on it. You should have a good 1.5cm gap between your big toe and the end of the inner soul. The width of your thumb is also a good measure. Many people lose toenails on the descent of a climb because their boots are just too small.
Having bought your new boots, gets us to the first most important point, wear your boots in. Leaving them to stand on the mantle piece so that you can admire them daily is not going to do any justice to your feet come the big day. The first thing, is to put them on and wear them around the house for an hour. You will quickly learn if they are not entirely the right fit, giving you a chance to take them back before you wear them in.
Once you know they will be comfortable, wear them in. Take them on walks; wear them on weekends; wear them around the house. On the first few days when they start to hurt, take them off, give your feet a break and start again the next day. The last thing you want is to spend a fortune on a hike only to find you are riddled with blisters on day one, and many days still ahead of you.
Just like an expensive car, boots need to be cared for, protected and serviced. Take the inner souls out to help the boots dry on the inside. This is also a good habit to get into at the end of each day of a hike.
On returning at the end of your hike, clean your boots with a soft brush and water and remove any mud buildup and dust particles. Then let your boots dry naturally. Putting them in a warming drawer or in front of a heater to speed up the process is the worst thing you can do. If the boots are damp on the inside, stuffing some newspaper in and changing it regularly will help to absorb excess moisture. Once your boots are dry, treat them to a leather care and waterproofing treatment. There are many different brands on the market such as Nikwax.
Just like a good car, if you take care of them and treat them right, your boots will give you hundreds of kilometers enabling you to fulfill your dreams.
by Debra Bouwer